Operation Welcome Wagon

Operation Welcome Wagon was a hastily organized attempt by the United States to communicate with the aliens following the arrival of the City Destroyers during the War of 1996.[1] A heavily modified Sikorsky CH-54 Tarhe Transport Helicopter, loaned from the U.S. Forest Service, was used to contact the alien visitors with light signals. In these signals there were mathematical formulas devised by S.E.T.I. to 'speak' a language to the aliens that is universal followed by the word "peace" written in ten different languages. A big part of the scoreboard of the RFK Memorial Stadium was removed and attached to the helicopter.

Surrounded by many reporters from various news networks, the Tarhe took off from Andrews Air Force Base and flew to the giant spaceship hanging above Washington, D.C., accompanied by two other helicopters. Just as the helicopter broadcast their message, President Thomas Whitmore learned from David Levinson that the aliens did not came for peaceful intentions. Before Operation Welcome Wagon were ordered to withdraw, the alien ship responded by destroying the helicopters with energy fire.


Behind the ScenesEdit

  • The name for "Operation Welcome Wagon" was conceived by video sequences director Ed Marsh while scripting and shooting his fake newscasts for playback during the production. Marsh reasoned that all military operations are given a "spiffy PR name." The name subsequently found its way into the final dialogue.
  • The "Welcome Wagon" sequence was an homage to Steven Spielberg's classic film Close Encounters of the Third Kind, in which large flashing lights arrays are used to communicate with an extraterrestrial spaceship. Also, the 'peaceful' contact bears similarity to a scene from H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds and its adaptations in which a group of humans make an ill-fated attempt at peaceful contact with aliens and are killed in response.
  • According to Dean Devlin that while the Sikorsky was first test-flew with the lights on, over 150 calls were received in Orange County from callers who spotted the helicopter and, unsure of what it was, reported it as a "UFO sighting".
  • The falling wreckage of the Welcome Wagon helicopters was footage of fiery debris that was captured on film after a pyrotechnics malfunction occurred on set.
  • In the novelization, an AH-64 Apache instead of the Sikorsky was use in Operation Welcome Wagon.


  1. Independence Day: Official Novelization

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